NetNZ has been working with Chris Clay and We are Futures to fully explore future possibilities so that we place ourselves in an sustainable and influential position. This involves scanning our current context to ensure we have a thorough understanding of what is emerging. The trends and patterns. The challenges and opportunities.
NetNZ was formed to enable networked learning across the New Zealand education systems and beyond. That means it is far more than just provision of online education. It is about enabling a behaviour. One in which schools work together to provide supplementary online (networked) education to each other. This is more fully explored here. NetNZ brings this together for our schools and works in partnership with other networks at a national level. We are not a Virtual School, nor do we want to be. In a way, reflecting such conventional organisational structures online misses the point of the internet entirely. We need to reimagine education in a way that places far fewer limits on what is possible.
We have always wanted to see the behaviour and the subsequent model more widely adopted, but this comes with a host of challenges – dispositions, resourcing, restrictive systems and structures, to name a few. More on that at another time. Why have we wanted it more widely adopted? Largely because it builds system wide resilience and capacity. An ever changing, complex emerging environment will need this. This has become abundantly clear over the last two years.
However, there are far more emerging conditions than we may realise. Consider for a moment just some of the following areas (and these are just a few).
- Covid 19, War in the Ukraine, and a general ‘climate of crisis’
- Increasing inequity
The spread of misinformation and disinformation, in particular through the internet
The use of the internet to amplify both the good and the bad in society. The increasing dangers that this poses to the unwary. Children with unfettered access to the internet, social media and with little understanding of how to manage this constructively
Rising teacher shortages
The globalisation of education. Geographic boundaries are no longer a boundary for many. Crimson Education is one local example of this
The rise in homeschooling
What is role of education in this emerging environment? What could be the role of organisations / networks like NetNZ? Resilience is crucial. A connected ecosystem is also crucial. Schools need to work together, not in competition. They also need to work closely with their communities, to support and grow children to be resilient and able to respond to complexity. To even welcome it perhaps?
- The emergence of artificial intelligence as a reality, not science fiction
The recent emergence of the ‘metaverse’. Not really a new concept, but one which is finally taking a hold. Virtual Worlds is a reality
Growing sophistication and prevalence of cybersecurity threats. Associated with this are significant privacy considerations
The Digital Divide in NZ and beyond
The automation of large parts of our current workforce
Blockchain and decentralised platforms / crypto currency
The continued rise of remote work and a more flexible work environment
The remote education response to Covid and growth in the use of online platforms for education
An area that is clearly within our view. One in which an networked schools and learning approach does have a place in guiding practice. However, the rapid development of many technologies, and the speed of adoption in some areas makes the current activity of NetNZ and the wider VLN look limited and narrow. Perhaps even archaic. The behaviour is positive, but it needs to break out of its current confines and enable far more than it does. Activity needs to be far more diverse. Education in general, the concept of schools as we know them, all seem out of touch with emerging technological developments.
And then throw in…
The climate crisis is well documented, and when considered alongside diminishing resources, fossil fuels, rising sea levels does not paint a particularly rosy picture. What are the implications for education that will become increasingly reliant on this diminishing environment? Another, more aspirational way to approach this is to consider the role education will have as in informing and responding to these emerging challenges. What does this mean for schools? For curriculum? We hear much about personalised learning, passion based learning and framing education around the individual, but what about the community? Society? Wicked problems? Cause and/or problem based learning, community and connected learning, and knowledge building, are approaches that could become embedded parts of our curriculum.
Our global political environment has become volatile in recent years. We have seen a rise in nationalism in many countries, often as a response to ongoing change. The emergence of political leaders riding on the back of this wave of nationalism. An ongoing war (invasion) in the Ukraine. Even within New Zealand our government has had to navigate some fairly challenging times, including protest and general unrest caused by covid-19, lockdowns and mandatory vaccines. Against this backdrop we have to consider how policy makers will adapt. From a NetNZ context we are very familiar with the swings in policy that changes of government bring. These swings make it difficult to lay a firm foundation from which to achieve a sustainable future. Unless you choose to go a completely different path entirely. Which to an extent, is what NetNZ was built to do.
And lastly, consider challenging economic conditions and the very real threat of a major recession. In amongst this we have seen a rise in education as business, especially within the online context. It seems every man and his dog sees an opportunity to make a buck on the back of online learning.
So where does this leave NetNZ and considerations of future development? It means we have to deeply consider what the implications are for the future, and how we want to position NetNZ. What do we represent? What do we want to influence? What do our member schools want? Our teachers? Our learners? There are currently no clear answers, but we can already see where the possibilities are emerging. Adaptation is paramount. Retain our core purpose and values, while ensuring we remain not only relevant, but important to an emerging future.
By Darren Sudlow